Friday, July 1, 2022

Projects’ Overruns and our Laxity in Monitoring & Evaluatio

I want to begin the year by looking at an issue that I once glossily raised in one of my pieces last year. The issue I want to revisit is about the problems associated with project implementation, monitoring and evaluation of major projects in the country. I am going to focus more on projects like roads, stadia, office blocks and even residential housing units. My concern with this particular issue is that there seem to be a lot of these projects that have two end scenarios. One, they all seem to never finish on time and thus accumulating cost overruns of very huge sums of funds. Secondly even when they do get finished after months and sometimes over a year of extended period, the quality is not what the customer (public) would have expected.

Let me begin with the sports stadia around the country. The status of the National Stadium continues to be a cause for concern for those of us sports persons who had hoped by now it will be in full usage. We have heard of the problems associated, first with the timely completion of the facility and when we thought it was complete issues of the quality of the end product surfaced, and to date the facility remains one of the monuments in our landscape. The concern hear is that just the extended period of renovations beyond the planned project duration has in itself cost the nation substantial millions of pulas over and above the original cost. It is common practice that projects do run beyond the planned implementation period but with projects like this, it always comes at a considerable cost, including the inconvenience of those that would otherwise utilise the facility.

It is a matter of serious concern that we don’t seem to be on top of the process to ensure timely completion of a facility that is the best we have in the country. The recently completed Lobatse Sports Complex was officially opened with a Be Mobile Premiership game and all seem to have gone wrong thereafter. We hear of reports that the layout of some equipment may be a reason why games are not scheduled there, again putting to question our ability to ensure that this facility is completed, but also in the form that it could be put to maximum use by those who were meant to benefit from its completion. I want to add that this particular facility has attached to it an indoor facility that sport codes requiring of indoor facilities had been awaiting with much anticipation.

However, while it has been completed and has to date hoisted major competitions, including the Zone VI Club Championships last December, it also is found wanting in terms of its quality. I am convinced that without any additional costs, the facility could have been of better standards for indoor playing codes in their varied forms. Of particular concern is the problem associated with space for spectators, when a lot of space was reserved for seemingly catering purposes. I need not say much about what we could have done, but I am convinced, with closer monitoring and continuous evaluation it could have been one of the better indoor facilities in the country.

We also have a number of other indoor facilities within mainly government educational institutions and still they are of low usage quality and just minor modifications of same plans would have provided us with more than adequate indoor facilities across the country. Just to mention a few, there are such indoor facilities at the Faculty of Engineering at University of Botswana, another at the Botswana Agricultural College in Sebele, Serowe Institute of Health Sciences and the Francistown. If these and a few others were constructed to meet the minimum standards for competitive games for most indoor sports codes this country would immensely benefit from hoisting major competitions. Our sports development would be enhanced through these competitions and the public will also get to appreciate more the value of sport in general. I am convinced that some of the resources we spend on these facilities are not wisely and productively utilised, purely on account of what the very facilities could be providing for us. It is a known fact that we lack basic indoor facilities that meets the bare minimum international standards for hoisting competitive games in this country. I think we can do much better as a collective.

I briefly want to put the issues of roads, buildings of different kinds in the same perspectives.

Currently there are a few roads across the nation that have either been recently constructed and finished but the quality is suspect, especially during times of rains like now. The drainage systems of these roads and the stadia are not very helpful to the user. The recently finished stadia at Sir Seretse Khama Barracks and the University of Botswana are typical examples as exemplified over the weekend soccer games. In addition to these are roads in the Kgalagadi and North East Districts that have long past their completion dates and there is ample signs that a lot still needs to be done before completion.

I am sure there are numerous other projects of different types that are currently running behind schedule and my thinking is it seems to be developing into an accepted culture within institutions charged with monitoring and evaluating these projects. It is certainly not a welcome type of culture, given the additional costs the tax payer incurs in paying for these costs beyond the original. My concern is that for most of these projects the final costs is often twice, thrice or much higher than the original one. I am writing this with the hope that this year could see the beginning of a more commitment to monitoring and evaluation of these types of projects. I think we can do our country well by saving these huge additional costs and let them be utilised in the other equally important national needs. I am just thinking aloud for now.

*Molaodi teaches Public Administration at the University of Botswana

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